WOLVERINE - After a two-year absence from the Twilight League, Wolverine has its bite back.
The North-end team officially reemerged Tuesday, playing their first game of the season against defending champs BlueSky Health as the newest member of the five-man league.
Led by manager Nels Paul and his son Luke, they hope the squad is here to stay this time.
Luke Paul fields a ball at shortstop Tuesday at Wolverine Field. Paul was a driving force behind the resurrection of Wolverine in the Twilight League. (DMG Photo by Michael Bleach)
"Luke was talking about getting a team together of mostly younger guys, and I told him to put it in Wolverine," Nels said. "It goes way back, there is a good history here. They have had teams here since the old-timers. It is just a beautiful field going to waste otherwise.
"The credit goes to Luke though, he really got them all together."
Luke conceived the idea as he and his friend were aging out of the Legion Post 186 team that Nels had managed.
This gave them a chance to keep playing ball together - and hopefully put in a good word for the Hancock Legion team around Calumet for any guys looking to play a little more baseball.
"All the other (Twilight) teams are pretty much set in their lineups and it's hard to bust in," Nels said. "So this gives the kids a chance to play every game. And if we can get some Calumet kids to join the Legion team, that's nice too."
The new-look Wolverine was a welcome addition for some of the longtime Twilight League fans too.
Fred Gaabo, of Mohawk, spent much of the game reminiscing about his playing days and the evolution of Copper Country baseball through the years.
"I sure am glad we have a team back again," Gaabo said.
Wolverine Field was christened with a crisp pitching gem Tuesday, as BlueSky's Owen Kariniemi and Chris Saari toed the rubber throwing strikes and working fast.
BlueSky (1-1) prevailed 2-1 with Kariniemi giving up just three hits and two walks in seven innings of work.
Kariniemi played for Wolverine (0-1) three years ago, but switched to BlueSky when the team disbanded.
"Man he was good today," Nels said. "He's a Calumet kid, so I tried to recruit him for our team. I wish I was a little more persuasive."
Kariniemi struck out just three, teaming with some excellent defense to mow through the Wolverine lineup. The infield churned out 15 outs on the ground as they showed off mid-season form early.
A pair of defensive gems saved the game in the seventh as well, with left fielder Brady Turner making a pair of highlight-worthy grabs to rob Wolverine hitters Darren Bausano and Saari of extra-base hits.
"My defensive was phenomenal today," Kariniemi said. "I just try to mix it up and let them work. They were awesome."